Bamboo Support’s Year in Review with Mike O’Brien

Editor's note: As we continue our annual Year in Review series with a look back on 2010, you'll notice a number of new faces among the participants this year.  Our goal with this year's offering was to offer the most holistic glimpse into the "year in Bamboo" to date … and what a year it was, including the release of SharePoint 2010 as well as the continued growth of Bamboo, as evidenced by the double digit increases in our product line, revenue, and staff. 

Mike O'Brien2010 was your first year as the leader of Bamboo's support organization.  How's it going?  Did you accomplish all of your first-year goals?

2010 was truly an amazing year for me and for Bamboo.  Support at Bamboo had gotten a bit of a black eye for various reasons.  I know for sure that the problem was not the folks providing support.   I was lucky to have inherited a great core team of people and to have a leadership team around me who were committed to providing me the resources I needed to make support at Bamboo great.  We added additional expert support engineers to the staff and made tons of behind-the-scenes improvements that have made a big impact.  We do a much better job of talking and listening to our customers now, and that is shown in our customer satisfaction numbers.  Because things change so much throughout the year, I don't know if I accomplished all the goals I set at the beginning of the year, but I would absolutely call 2010 a success.

What are the key challenges for your team in 2011? 

We have plenty, but what comes to mind first is continuous learning.  SharePoint 2010 adoption will really take off this year, so we'll need to continue to develop our skills on the new platform, while still supporting our many customers who remain on 2007.  Along with SharePoint 2010 comes a bevy of new product offerings from Bamboo.  It's an ongoing effort to keep our support engineers up to speed on our extensive product line.  A new platform, lots of new products, and (hopefully) tons of new customers make for a BIG challenge for our support team in 2011.

What are the hardest types of problems that Bamboo customers need help with?

It's hard to pick just one.  When I started here a year ago, I envisioned transforming the support function into something resembling a typical call center environment.  We'd have a database of known issues and most of the problems customers reported would be simple, quick fixes.  That didn't happen.  There are just too many possible combinations of SharePoint version, SharePoint configuration, hardware configuration, Bamboo products, other add-on products, customer expertise levels, desired use cases for the product, etc. to get a handle on everything.  Customers have new questions or issues every day about how to accomplish a business goal using our products.  I would say that some of the hardest problems arise when we have to diagnose issues in a customer's SharePoint environment instead of with our products.  We often have to walk a fine line between product support and SharePoint consultant.  Also, the type of customer can present a challenge.  We gear our support towards the average SharePoint administrator.  Dealing with novice SharePoint users, and even with extremely experienced developers and technically proficient users each present their own set of challenges.

How is Enterprise support different than a Premium or Basic Support plan?

In a nutshell, Enterprise customers have invested in a deeper relationship with Bamboo and we help them protect that investment with a commensurate level of support.   All of our customers are extremely important, of course, but of necessity, we will work with those in an Enterprise relationship differently than with someone who bought a single Web Part for a few hundred dollars.  Basic support is included with all new purchases for one year, and entitles you to email support through our My Bamboo support portal, a 2-business-day response time, and access to minor/patch updates. Premium support and Suite customers get same-business-day (4-hour) response time and access to phone and live meeting support when necessary, as well as free major product upgrades.  Enterprise customers have all the benefits that premium customers do, but also get a dedicated technical support engineer, a technical escalation contact (me) and several planned after-hours support sessions for maintenance windows.  Enterprise customers also receive additional services, such as deployment planning, training services, and a dedicated technical account manager. 

You initiated a Customer Satisfaction survey earlier this year.  What are the most important findings that have surfaced in the survey results?

A satisfaction survey now goes out to all of our support customers at the conclusion of each incident.  We learn a lot from the feedback our customers provide, and we're grateful that they take the time help us improve.  

A few things stick out from this year's survey results.  First and foremost, our customers love us!  We sometimes joke that support is the "complaint department."  Not only is the survey a great tool to uncover areas for improvement, but we also hear some really positive feedback about the support we provide, our products, and our people.  

On the room for improvement side, we can always get better at the basic customer service blocking and tackling.  Our customers consistently tell us that they want frequent communication, fast response times, and an expectation of when a problem will be resolved.  In general, most of the complaints we hear are because it's taking us longer than expected to find the root cause of a problem.

Recently, there's been an uptick in blogging from members of your team.  Is that something that we can expect to see continue in the year ahead?

Absolutely.  Blogging is a great way to force oneself to learn about a topic and to interact with the Bamboo Nation community.  As I stated earlier, learning is a big challenge for us in 2010. 

You made a number of key hires in 2011.  Will your team continue to expand in 2011?  What kind of talent are you looking for?

We will expand in 2011.  We're obviously looking for SharePoint talent, but also need someone who enjoys helping people.  We need to add an additional person to work closely with our Enterprise customers.  It's a challenge to find the right fit, because the job is a combination of SharePoint administrator, consultant, and customer support engineer.  If you are that person (or know of such a person) and want an awesome job and great opportunity to learn, give me a shout!

Read the entire 2010 Year in Review series:

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